April 11 2019 08:00 AM

Some of my best childhood memories took place with my siblings by my side.

It was sometimes hard to capture family photos (especially in the pre-smartphone era and when you had a large family), but it was so easy to capture memories growing up on a family dairy farm.

National Siblings Day happens to coincide with the passing of my brother, Pat. He was killed in a car accident on April 10, 1996, at the age 29, leaving behind a wife and two young children. That day brought deep sadness to our hearts and an indescribable unity to our family.

My life was divided into two periods: before and after our beloved brother died. Before — I lived life without a lot of worries and like most kids, argued about petty things with my siblings. We had fights over who was holding up the bathroom, who wasn’t pulling their weight with chores, and who left the pasture gate open.

After my brother died, a harmony was brought to my family — the petty things no longer mattered. We found our way by having each other’s back. If the gates were left open, we went out together to get the cows back in.

The death of our brother brought calmness to our hearts. We didn’t sweat the small things, and we tightly clutched to the big things that did matter.

So, do me a favor — hug your sibling. Growing up on a farm with brothers and sisters is really a blessing. In the days that I felt nobody else could relate, I always had a sibling that could. Feeding cows, baling straw, or even shoveling manure allowed us time to work out our problems and build on our dreams.

I think some of my most fond memories are choring with my youngest sister, Mary. We were two peas in a pod — we did everything together. I recall watching Murder, She Wrote and then having to go get the cows from the corral into the holding pen at night. I was scared to do that in the dark, and without skipping a beat, Mary offered to go out with me. She was always there for me. All my siblings are. We’re closer now than we were growing up on our childhood family dairy farm.

My sisters and I gathered to celebrate our father's birthday back in 2014. #DavidsonStrong

Despite living thousands of miles away, we can keep in touch with the touch of a phone. We do that often. Through the last decade when we gathered to care for our ill parents, then bury them, and then sell our childhood farm. Let’s just say, going through all of that, you either stick together or you don’t. And, I really cannot imagine getting through waves of grief without my sisters by my side.

So today, I raise my glass of milk to toast the best sisters, while not forgetting our beloved brother, Pat. We are Davidson Strong. Because of growing up on our family dairy farm, that deep rooted a special bond between us that still holds true today.

Karen Bohnert

Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.